OIE Reference Laboratory

In 2009 the Irish Equine Centre was designated an OIE reference laboratory for equine influenza and the Head of the Centre’s Virology Unit, Professor Ann Cullinane was designated an OIE expert in this field. The OIE is the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Irish Equine Centre is one of four OIE Reference Laboratories for Equine Influenza in the world (the others are in Kentucky, Newmarket and Berlin). Since 2009 the Irish Equine Centre has provided assistance relating to the diagnosis and control of equine influenza to laboratories and veterinarians in Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and Asia. Dr Sarah Gildea in the Virology Unit organises inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency tests and the supply of reference standards to other laboratories.

Ann Cullinane is Chair of the OIE Expert Surveillance Panel (ESP) for equine influenza. This panel which consists of OIE and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts meets annually at OIE headquarters in Paris to review data in relation to equine influenza outbreaks all over the world and to make recommendations on the need to update equine influenza vaccines. These recommendations are published in the OIE Bulletin and on the OIE website- OIE Website

It is essential for the global control of equine influenza that the ESP receives information relating to disease outbreaks and the emergence of antigenic and genetic variants from as wide a geographic area as possible. In 2011 the OIE approved a twinning between the Irish Equine Centre and the National Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of China. Under this OIE twinning programme laboratory expertise pertaining to the diagnosis and control of equine influenza is being transferred from the Irish Equine Centre to Harbin Veterinary Research Institute. The activities include site visits, laboratory training programmes, exchange of reagents, proficiency tests, workshops/scientific meetings and development of further collaborative research projects.

The ultimate aim of the project is that Harbin Veterinary Research Institute will achieve OIE Reference status and implement an effective equine influenza surveillance programme. China is also an emerging market for Irish horses and visitors from Harbin are given the opportunity to meet key individuals in the horse industry and to visit equestrian establishments in Ireland.

In addition to her work with the ESP, Ann plays an active role in OFFLU, the OIE-FAO global network of expertise on animal influenzas, and assists with meetings and the preparation of strategy documents.